Workforce planning is an exciting opportunity for small businesses seeking growth, particularly in STEM industries where years of development are on the cusp of transforming lives or industrial practice.
Research from McKinsey shows that high-growth companies have 30% higher total returns to shareholders. Sustainable business growth creates value, from opening new avenues to existing employees, creating opportunities for further innovation and development, to driving financial profits.
Once you’ve achieved the funding you require and rapid growth is on its way, creating a clear business growth plan is critical to ensure that your business growth is truly sustainable and future proofed. This could include reorganising or expanding your internal structure, developing policies and procedures, reviewing locations for expansion, reviewing supply chains, and of course, workforce planning, to name a few.
This blog particularly focuses on workforce planning and the importance of getting the right people quickly to match your growth plans.
Keep reading to find out:
- What is a business growth plan?
- Common hurdles to STEM business growth
- How to prepare a sustainable workforce growth plan
What is a business growth plan?
A business growth plan is a strategic framework for company growth that includes clear objectives, plans and strategies that all align with growth goals.
Business growth plans are an essential part of pre-funding strategy, and are borne from wider business activities and objectives including investment, mergers and acquisitions, and portfolio momentum.
Business growth plans can cover time periods from just 1 year, to 2-3 years, and involve aligning operations across the organisation with clear actions that enable the business to achieve the goals within the pre-established timeframe.
Workforce planning is key to activating a successful business growth plan and involves strategising how to sustainably expand your team to achieve product and R&D related milestones, while establishing a strong employee value proposition, forging your brand vision and building a fulfilling candidate journey to ensure access to the talent required to power your expansion’s success.
Common hurdles to STEM business growth
Time spent to hire
Time is a crucial asset in any business, especially STEM where delays to hiring new personnel can be the difference between project success and failure.
In complex occupations like those within STEM, high performers are more than 800% more productive than average employees, and in today’s talent market, are far more likely to be hired fast.
In the UK, the candidate market is particularly competitive, as unemployment rates have fallen to the lowest level in almost 50 years, meaning job vacancies have officially outnumbered the number of applicants for the first time. This has created an environment where a swift and seamless hiring process is crucial to recruitment success.
Smaller STEM businesses often depend on internal managers or directors to manage their recruitment, whilst juggling their own objectives. When businesses in STEM directly source their own candidates and manage the hiring process from start to finish, they often face the challenge of additional time expenditure for all those involved in the recruitment process, including any senior leaders.
Recruitment knowledge gaps
Technical and niche roles in STEM businesses can be critical to business continuity, and hard to find. When HR staff are brought in to support on specialist hiring projects, they can lack the scientific background and experience required to fully align selected candidates with the nature of the role. Asking the right technical questions to measure expertise is essential in scientific recruitment.
Additionally, achieving a competitive pay rate, benefits package, and finding the candidates through the right channels requires benchmarking, market intel and a tailored advertising budget to ensure you reach the right candidates. Too often pay rates are pitched too low, or job adverts aren’t visible on the right channels, meaning quality of application is low.
Changes in recruitment volume
For small to medium businesses on the verge of business expansion, recruitment volumes can flux according to market demand and the strategic rate of expansion. Recruitment trends can rapidly shift, as has been shown by both the global pandemic and ‘great attrition’ of 2021. STEM businesses looking to rapidly expand need to ensure that their recruitment strategy is flexible enough to cater for any hiring volume changes that they might experience.
Scaling a workforce up requires careful planning, a smooth recruitment and onboarding process, so projects can remain on schedule.
How to prepare a sustainable workforce growth plan
The first step to powering a sustainable workforce growth plan is strategic alignment.
This involves evaluating the overall recruitment approach against your organisational objectives and long-term goals. Whether you choose to stay nimble by limiting team size, or choose to transform internal processes and rapidly expand, your recruitment technique should complement your wider business plan.
Next, map out the types of candidates you need, what criteria they need to meet, and how your business environment might inspire them.
In smaller teams set to grow, a strong mission can power a common sense of purpose and inspire motivation and commitment from teams. Meanwhile, in the changeable and disruptive environments that growing businesses often exhibit, adaptable and agile employees who are forward thinkers can be essential in both bringing company culture to life and ensuring business momentum.
Research from the Harvard Business Review indicates that when new hires have cultural adaptability (that’s the ability to learn and conform to changes in company culture), they are more likely to succeed at work compared to employees who showed high cultural fit when first hired. The key here is hiring forward-thinking candidates who believe in the principles behind your organisational mission, and who can thrive in a changeable and disruptive environment.
Finally, consider talent retention.
While expanding organisations can often lack the extra financial leeway to provide monetary rewards or incentives for staff, SMEs do have a wealth of opportunities in their reach to inspire retention including:
- Input into the implementation of an organisational mission
- Faster career development opportunities
- A sense of common purpose
- A more personal company culture
The above factors should be ingrained within the wider business growth strategy to ensure that as the organisation expands, teams retain a strong sense of unity and belonging as well as career progression to encourage better retention of staff.
Looking for more guidance?
At SRG, we have over 30 years of experience in the STEM talent sector and can help support your organisation with competitive talent acquisition tools to streamline your business expansion’s success.
Our free whitepaper on mastering business expansion is available to power your organisational growth with the latest insights on business expansion in the STEM sector.
Meanwhile, our expert consultants are on hand to help activate access to the talent you require to grow your business.